Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name used by the US government for its military response to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the country. Holding the Taliban Government in Afghanistan responsible for sheltering Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks on its soil, on 7 October 2001, American and British forces began an aerial bombing campaign targeting Taliban forces and al-Qaeda.
Most of the Taliban fled to Pakistan. The war continued in the south of the country, where the Taliban retreated to Kandahar. After Kandahar fell in December, remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda continued to mount resistance.
The Northern Alliance, fighting against a Taliban weakened by US bombing and massive defections, captured Mazar-i Sharif on November 9. It rapidly gained control of most of northern Afghanistan and took control of Kabul on November 13 after the Taliban unexpectedly fled the city. The Taliban were restricted to a smaller and smaller region, with Kunduz, the last Taliban-held city in the north, captured on November 26. Most of the Taliban fled to Pakistan. The war continued in the south of the country, where the Taliban retreated to Kandahar. After Kandahar fell in December, remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda continued to mount resistance.
The Battle of Tora Bora, involving US, British and Northern Alliance forces took place in December 2001 to further destroy the Taliban and suspected al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In early March 2002 the United States military, along with allied Afghan military forces, conducted a large operation to destroy al-Qaeda in an operation code-named Operation Anaconda. After managing to evade US forces throughout the summer of 2002, the remnants of the Taliban gradually began to regain their confidence.
The ISAF is an international stabilisation force authorised by the UN Security Council on 20 December 2001. It consists of about 40,000 personnel from 34 nations. The United States military also conducts military operations, separate from NATO, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in other parts of Afghanistan. ISAF has proceeded in stages to stabilize the country. Initially, ISAF took control of Kabul and northern Afghanistan. Then, it moved into western Afghanistan. On 31 July 2006, ISAF assumed command of the restive south of the country, and by 5 October 2006 of east Afghanistan also, thus covering the entire country. ISAF’s principal mechanism for rebuilding Afghanistan is the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). PRTs, composed of military and civilian officials, are charged with extending the reach of the Afghan government by improving governance and rebuilding the economy. There are significant differences in how individual NATO governments run their PRTs.
The greatest barrier to the militarys capacity to undertake its stabilisation role in Afghanistan is a lack of adequate forces-on-the-ground.
In November of 2006, the UN Security Council warned that Afghanistan may become a failed state due to increased Taliban violence, growing illegal drug production, and fragile state institutions.9 From 2005 to 2006, the number of suicide attacks, direct fire attacks, and use of improvised explosive devices increased. Al Qaeda, Taliban, the Haqqani Network and Hezb-i-Islami sanctuaries have increased fourfold in the last year. The campaign has been significantly less successful at achieving the primary policy goal of ensuring that Al-Qaeda can no longer operate in Afghanistan. The troop strength is less than a quarter of the deployment of international troops to Iraq, whereas the rugged terrain of Afghanistan is more populated, and has an area almost 50 per cent larger than Iraq. To prevent NATO’s defeat at the hands of the Taliban, a rejuvenated NATO force is needed for Afghanistan.
The greatest barrier to the military’s capacity to undertake its stabilisation role in Afghanistan is a lack of adequate forces-on-the-ground. This has led to an over-reliance upon air strikes, leading to increased civilian casualties and lower levels of support for the Karzai Government and the West’s presence in the country. The Taliban are increasingly able to fill the political space, and once rooted within the new community, are proving impossible to remove.
The troop strength is less than a quarter of the deployment of international troops to Iraq, whereas the rugged terrain of Afghanistan is more populated, and has an area almost 50 per cent larger than Iraq. To prevent NATOs defeat at the hands of the Taliban, a rejuvenated NATO force is needed for Afghanistan.
NATO’s ability to undertake a successful mission in Afghanistan is hamstrung by restrictive caveats. If NATO is to truly be able to project itself on a global scale, then its member states must bear the war fighting burden in equal measure, and national caveats must be lifted. The alliance is fading. The different threat perceptions among alliance members, affect the degree of willingness among the members’ publics, and their governments, regarding the appropriate conditions in which to use force among other political instruments, and to provide sufficient financial resources to support the military instrument of that mix. It is such disparities which affect public inclinations and political decisions on defense spending. Different historical experiences are critically important in understanding the attitudes regarding the propriety, threshold and utility of the use of force in international conflict in the 21st century. These differences lead to difficulties regarding rules of engagement, area of operations, and related factors in Afghanistan.